Our View: Officer a valuable resource | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Officer a valuable resource

— Kudos to the Steamboat Springs School Board for agreeing to help fund the resource officer position at Steamboat Springs High School.

In a 3-1 vote Monday night, School Board members agreed to pay for half of Officer Josh Carrell’s salary and benefits. However, because the district’s agreement doesn’t take effect until January, the school system will provide only a quarter of Carrell’s salary and benefits for the 2008-09 school year. That total comes to about $18,500.

The School Board was smart to compromise on the final amount, which would have been higher had the district agreed to pay for the benefits provided by the city of Steamboat Springs. Reasoning that it wasn’t fair to fund a higher level of benefits package than what is received by school district employees, the School Board instead opted to fund half the amount of the cost of school system benefits.

Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said the district would revisit the funding question each year, as it does with all other expenses. If the district were to half-fund Carrell’s position for the entirety of the 2009-10 school year, it would cost taxpayers about $37,000.

We think it’s money well spent. The school resource officer position was created about 12 years ago when the D.A.R.E. program was absolved, Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said. The position always has been funded exclusively by the city, but this year’s budget woes led to the cost-sharing conversation. Many school districts with resource officers have cost-sharing agreements in place with their local police departments.

The School Board correctly recognized that the resource officer position provides a valuable opportunity for a Steamboat Springs police officer to develop positive relationships with the teens in our community. In his capacity as school resource officer, Carrell serves as a counselor and teacher, as well as a uniformed police officer. Carrell also is an assistant soccer coach at the school and a resource for teachers and administrators, too.

Most important, Carrell’s presence means a law enforcement officer is on school grounds almost every school day. High School Principal Kevin Taulman said Carrell takes the lead on school investigations, and he patrols during school events. There should be some reassurance for parents and the community at large in knowing a police officer already is on school grounds in the event of an emergency.

Just as it’s important for our public schools to do all they can to provide for the safety of our children, it’s important for our youths to develop positive relationships with police officers and other authority figures. We’re pleased the School Board recognized the value in the school resource officer position and that the city and the school district were able to compromise on a funding structure that allows Officer Carrell to remain a presence in the high school.

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